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If you’re thinking about adding a Golden Retriever to your family, then you probably have important questions, like how long will my Golden Retriever live and if there’s anything I can do to increase her lifespan.
Golden Retrievers are the third-most-popular dog in the United States, behind only Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds, and for good reason – they are amazing family dogs who are intelligent, love their people, and are eager to please. Understandably, you want to keep your beloved retriever around as long as possible.
Determining the Golden Retriever lifespan is such an important question that the Morris Animal Foundation is currently studying the lives of more than 3,000 Golden Retrievers to monitor their lives and deaths and figure out what factors affect how long Golden Retrieves live.
The results of that lifetime study won’t be ready for several more years, so in the meantime, let’s talk about what we do know about the Golden Retriever life expectancy and what might help your retriever live a longer life.
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Golden Retriever average lifespan is 10 to 12 years.
This is down from the 1970s when Golden Retrievers commonly lived to be 16 or 17.
So what gives? Why is the lifespan of these beloved retrievers shrinking?
There are multiple reasons for this, but there is one standout reason for the shortened life expectancy of goldens.
One word: Cancer.
Golden Retrievers have one of the highest cancer rates of any dog breed, with more than half of all Goldens (60%) dying from cancer.
The reasons for the spike in cancer rates in the Golden Retriever are not fully understood, but a fairly recent genetic mutation seems to be one culprit.
Some of the strongest evidence for a genetic mutation is the notable different rates of cancer in American Golden Retrievers and European Golden Retrievers. Less than 40% of European Goldens die from cancer, while more than 60% of American Goldens die from cancer.
In fact, Golden Retrievers who develop lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma commonly have genetic alterations that make them more prone to the cancers.
Since, like all registered dog breeds, Golden Retriever populations are closed to other dog breeds, these genes are being passed down at higher rates without healthier DNA being introduced to the population.
Furthermore, according to the 2015 Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, Golden Retrievers are more likely to die of bone cancer, lymphoma, and blood cancer than any other dog breed.
The popularity of the Golden Retriever is also partly responsible for the higher rate of cancer.
Popular dog breeds are bred more frequently and more indiscriminately than less common dog breeds, with careless breeders throwing any two Golden Retrievers together to make puppies without any consideration for the health problems of genetic lines of the parents.
So, while cancer is the short answer to the shrinking lifespan of Golden Retrievers, it’s still unclear as to what is causing these cancers.
What we do know is that the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is ongoing. A number of factors are being taken into consideration—physical traits, heavy metals and other chemicals in their drinking water, diet, and their daily routine.
Of course, there’s still a long way to go in determining the direct causes of these cancers that are leading to a shorter Golden Retriever life expectancy.
Apart from cancer, there are several other factors that can affect a Golden Retriever’s lifespan. Some things that can shorten your golden’s life expectancy include:
While it’s difficult to lessen your golden’s odds of developing cancer, there are still plenty of things you can do to help increase the odds of your Golden Retriever living a quality life––as long as possible.
If you’re going for a purebred Golden Retriever, you’ll want to find yourself a reputable breeder.
Responsible breeders care about the health of their puppies and do extensive health testing on their dogs before they breed them. They do their best not to breed goldens with a high genetic tendency toward hip dysplasia, cancer, or other health problems.
Golden Retrievers that come from puppy mills or irresponsible breeders who are more concerned with money than the health of the breed are more likely to have health issues than goldens who come from responsible breeders
The breeder should also be able to provide you with the necessary paperwork for the dogs. This paperwork includes health tests on all of their dogs. They should also have a history of breeding healthy puppies with records of their average life spans.
Aside from finding a breeder you can trust, it’s also important to learn of any breed-predispositions.
Warning signs to look for and avoid:
Obesity causes many of the same problems for dogs that it does for people such as diabetes, heart problems, cancer, high blood pressure, arthritis, and other health problems.
In fact, obesity can shorten a dog’s life by as much as 2 years!
How can you tell if your Golden Retriever is a healthy weight?
When your dog is standing up, you should be able to feel (but not see) their ribs.
If you can’t feel your dog’s ribs, they need to lose some weight. Talk to your vet about the ideal weight for your golden and how you can safely help them lose the excess weight and gain months or years to their lifespan.
Regular veterinary check-ups will ensure that any health issues will be caught early. It will also keep your dog up to date on their vaccinations. This will help to protect against any contagious diseases.
You should also head to the vet as soon as your dog starts showing any unusual symptoms.
You likely take vitamins or supplements yourself, so it should be no surprise that your Golden Retriever may benefit from supplements, too.
One of the most important supplements for large breeds like Golden Retrievers is glucosamine and chondroitin, which helps prevent and relieve pain from joint problems like arthritis or hip dysplasia.
Since a reduced quality of life due to limited mobility is a common reason for euthanizing senior dogs, doesn’t it make sense to help reduce or even prevent that?
Another supplement that Golden Retrievers benefit from is fish oil or other omega-3 supplements. Omega 3s can help reduce inflammation and improve the skin and coat, which is especially important for the allergy-prone golden.
If you think about it, people who eat a lot of junk food tend to die younger than people who eat healthy diets. The same holds true for your dog.
Have you looked at the ingredients of your dog’s kibble recently? You may be feeding them junk food without even realizing it.
Here are some tips for finding high-quality food for your golden:
For more information on quality dog food, check out our article on the Best Food for a Golden Retriever Puppy.
Spaying and neutering your retriever may add up to three years to their life span. This is because it limits any hormone-causing cancers within their sexual organs. Not to mention, it also limits the heat factor. (It can be a little dangerous for your dog to run off to explore their mating options).
It’s also integral to spay/neuter at the right time. The general age for the procedure is between 3-9 months for most breeds. For Golden Retrievers, however, it’s 1-2 years.
This is important because of the “gonads” (reproductive organs) which produce crucial hormones. These hormones help to develop the long bone-growth plates and set a foundation to prevent major diseases.
Dental hygiene is just as important as a healthy diet! Plaque and bacteria under your golden’s gumline can build up and make its way from your retriever’s mouth to their bloodstream. This enables it to potentially damage vital organs.
Poor dental hygiene can lead to poor overall health, so be sure to brush your dog’s teeth regularly, provide dental treats and get your golden’s teeth cleaned by the vet when they recommend it.
Fat dogs aren’t cute.
Neither is joint pain, hip dysplasia or diabetes. Along with quality nutrition, you should be exercising your Golden Retriever every day. (This means more than just letting them out into the back yard).
Medium to large-sized dogs are generally bred as task dogs. They need a good amount of mental stimulation as well as physical activity.
Be prepared to take your retriever on long walks and/or runs.
Remember, a lean life is a long life.
Just like humans, happy equals healthy. And, just like humans, Golden Retrievers with high stress can become vulnerable to chronic health issues.
Observe your dog’s behavior consistently, and address any behavioral issues like anxiety or aggression.
Also, don’t leave them alone for long periods of time, because this could cause separation anxiety.
This is often overlooked because dog’s have fur. But their fur doesn’t protect them from sunburn, or skin damage. Especially breeds like Golden Retrievers are more susceptible to skin cancer because of their light skin color.
Talk to your veterinarian about their recommendations for dog-safe sunscreen, and keep an eye out for any discolored growths.
While nothing will ever help your Golden Retriever live forever, there are some things you can do to help extend your golden’s lifespan. Hopefully, with our tips, you and your Golden Retriever can have many quality years together. After all, the oldest Golden Retriever lived to be 20 years old!